Friday, 16 December 2016

EIGHT BIT MAGAZINE #2 AND ME


Before you read on, this isn't the full write-up for the second issue of the superb Eight Bit magazine, that'll come in January.  I've discovered that while my Twelve Posts of Christmas have been working a treat for The Oink! Blog, here it hasn't been plain sailing.  This is simply because some of the posts I'd planned are monstrous affairs (two of the biggest were to be side-by-side too, one day after the other) and I've discovered now it's not really the kind of blog I can plan ahead a whole month's worth of posts for.  Simply because this is a hobby and with hobbies we like to potter about with them and do as we please in a relaxed style.  They should be stress and deadline-free.  I do plan to write at least one post a week here in 2017, but I think I'd prefer to be more flexible with it than I have this month, but I'll go into that at another time.

For now though, this lovely little magazine slipped in through the letterbox this week and I was hugely excited.  Not just because it's a great read and this is the first of the now-regular quarterly issues, but also because I'm in it!  A few months back editor John Kavanagh asked if I'd like to contribute and I leapt at the chance to be published in a future issue.  Originally I'd plans for a feature about the modern day C64 scene, or how to get to grips with creating games on it... a myriad of ideas ran through my head but none were working out.  But then one day I sat down with a notion to play one of my very favourite Commodore games from my original time with the machine and it hit me: here's what I could write about.  I was passionate about this game and it was one which was never really covered on C64 sites or in retro mags.  With the regular Blast from the Past feature already having established itself in the first issue by covering a little-known E.T. game (not the infamous buried-in-the-desert one) it seemed like the natural thing for me to write about.

Nope, you can't zoom in and read it, you'll have to buy the
magazine for that

When we write with passion and about something we ourselves would like to read I always feel it comes across in the text.  I hope I've been able to do so too.  There are two Jaws games for the 64 but it's the other title which gets all the coverage and it was never really any good.  This version from Screen 7 came later on in the computer's life and didn't get as much coverage, remaining largely forgotten ever since.  That's such a shame as it's a superb game, if incredibly difficult.  But persevere and it's by far my favourite film licence videogame and a perfect example of how to do them on the old 8-bit machines.

I have to say John's layout is great, I love it!  I didn't know how it was going to look and I simply supplied him with all of the text and scores etc., as well as a scan of the tape inlay and some screenshots.  These were taken by me in the same way as I did for the Fantasy World Dizzy review for the blog earlier this year.  By that I mean they were taken the old fashioned way of using a camera in front of the TV screen.  As I've discussed before I wanted to do this as using emulation or running the 64 through my Mac produces screens which are 'too perfect' and they end up looking incredibly blocky.

Wow, I'd no idea he'd refer to the blog like this in the title of
the review.  So hello to any new readers out there!

Instead I used the Manual app I reviewed this year and my iPhone, along with a small tripod I also covered here and took as many screenshots as I could, keeping in mind what I'd discussed in the review.  Using my old CRT TV screen gave them a truer representation of how they were intended to be seen on a Commodore 64.  The screen blurs edges slightly and the graphics just look better and so much more authentic.

I have to say I'm amazed at how well they turned out on the pages here as I was worried about how they'd reproduce for John.  But he's done a marvellous job and they look really professional, just as they might've done in the pages of gaming magazines of the time.  It's really made me want to get stuck in to reviewing my games for the blog and with a mind to a future printed project I might yet follow through on in the next year or two.  Add in John's brilliant idea of using the famous Jaws poster art as a background for the whole of the three pages and I have to keep pinching myself that this is my review!  It just looks so professional and it's right there in an honest-to-gosh magazine, available to actually purchase by actual people through mail order!

So proud of how my iPhone shots have turned out on the page

At the start of the year i didn't know what I wanted from this blog but at the very least it was going to be fun to share my time with this computer again.  But it wasn't long before I wanted to write more and more about it, in much the same way as I'm currently exploring a project for Oink!.  I ended up donating to the Kickstarter for Commodore 64: a visual commpendium Second Edition and getting a small contribution published there, which you can read about here.

I had a grand writing project planned for the machine, my own Kickstarter of a regular C64 magazine actually, but as I delved deeper I realised there's a much, much larger 64 scene out there than I could ever have predicted!  It's also being covered wonderfully through eZines such as Reset 64 and Scene World, both of which produce physical copies of their 'wares (the former on paper, the latter on diskette) and then there's this great, regular multiformat title for us fans of the eight-bit machines.  If I was going to do a project I'd need to completely rethink it so it'd be more unique and I could bring something new out.

A screen you'll see a lot in this game, but
accompanied by the theme tune it's a funny
Game Over sequence

But in the meantime I want to spend 2017 developing my knowledge about the current scene, building the blog with lots of quality (hopefully) writing and expanding my presence in the aforementioned scene.  After all who would want to buy into my Kickstarter if they haven't a baldy if my writing is any good or not?  For example, there's a great retro website that has asked me to contribute on a rather large scale but I've yet to get around to doing anything for them and I feel so bad about that.  That's definitely going to change!

A stressful life situation did get in the way of any creative work for a while there but now I'm looking forward to what 2017 will bring.  Not might bring, I mean will bring!

So this Jaws review is symbolic in a way of where I'm headed and it's a great start.  I couldn't be happier with how it turned out and I'm so thankful to John for the chance and for the work he put in to make it look so great in the magazine.  Eight Bit #2 is available now and a reprint of #1 is currently seeking funding.  For all the latest news and information head over to the Facebook page here right now!

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